Here is an under-recognized, under-utilized truth:

PEOPLE make the company, the company does not make the people. 

Often leaders are preoccupied with who they are going to hire.  Agreed – hiring is a critically important decision.  Who you hire, as a leader, will ultimately determine your level of success… or will it?  It seems logical enough. After all, if you hire great people you’re laying the foundation for building great teams, units, and organizations… as well as great overall business results, right?

At The Root Of It All

On the surface, you are absolutely right. However, if you dig down deep to the root of many organizational issues, you find a much darker problem: “A” Players are hired for their talent, innovation and potential to take the organization to new heights, and then they are treated no different than the “B” and “C” Players in the organization that make no real day to day impact. The reality is that without great people that make real impact, you cannot sustainably build great products or provide great services.

If you are serious about your team, unit, or company being made up of great people that will continually innovate to create great products and services, you have no choice but to reward the people that make the company exceptional ~ and withhold reward from those who do not. Do we really expect to retain, much less motivate, our top talent by treating everyone the same? Top talent and exceptional performance should ALWAYS be recognized and rewarded above those without the commitment to excellence – yet this is seldom the case.  Despite popular opinion – there is nothing wrong with rewarding actual performance and withholding from the lack thereof.

Recently, I was speaking with a young man I mentor who works for a very large global company.  Despite being an exceptionally high performer, his company provides no performance incentive throughout the year.  Once per year there is the “Performance Evaluation”, which is sadly comical:  the employee writes their own review, the Manager reviews it and comments, they meet to discuss the content and the Manager delivers the news that no one is getting more than an inflationary raise – performance is irrelevant. This is the pattern every year, as it is in many companies across the spectrum.

Does this behavior on the part of companies really inspire any sort of loyalty or even intention on the part of our best employees and most prolific talent?  There is a worldwide battle for talent and these are the organizational policies we support, as leaders? We live in a world where the best companies will begin to wake up and incent the best talent not only to stay, but to innovate.  As for the rest… well, they will get sloppy seconds and fall behind in a globally competitive marketplace.

In a recent PWC CEO survey, at the very top of mind for most CEO’s was the lack of talent to complete their objectives. Two-thirds of the same CEO’s are trying to figure out how to change their strategy around talent. Is it any wonder this has become a crisis?  The answer is not in acquisition as a key component of the core structure.   It is in RETENTION and recognizing that our top performers determine our potential to make our companies great!  The evidence in organizations today suggests we often lose sight of that “small” fact. The good news – we can impact change together!

What are you doing to identify and retain your top talent?

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you identify and retain top talent in your organization. Feel free to contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back soon for the next post on Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.

2 Responses

  1. That is so so very true….In my previous experience, it is always benificial to reward the performerrs rather spending your time, money and energy on the non performers. Also, the process starts by recruiting the right people (a known practise). But important to note here is to hire the subordinates who you think are more skillfull than you. Such subordinates can infact uplift your team’s performance

  2. Hye,
    My english is too poor to say more than”GOOD”. People talent is the only real way to sustainble success.
    It’s a real pleasure to read you

    Thanks a lot

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